Something about Birthing

An occupational hazard of the preacher is his tendency to turn the everyday things of life into homiletic examples. The latest victims? My five grown children.

As we get ready for the launching (soon, we pray!) of the Ordinariates on this side of the Atlantic, there’s a bit of dust-stirring, several ongoing kicks-from-the-devil, and a general messiness. The long Vatican summer seems longer than usual (even though it’s not). Dossiers have been sent in for consideration, resulting in lots of Anglican clergy hanging around mailboxes, hoping for a response today, or tomorrow at the latest.

As I view all this from the relative comfort of my already-Catholic parish, I feel an overwhelming desire to straighten it all out (not that I can). There’s something in me that wants to settle the dust, kick back at the devil, and organize the messiness. It probably stems from my “inordinate need for order,” or something. Whatever the cause, it brought my mind around to my children. More specifically, to the births of my children. What could that have to do with our present pre-Ordinariate situation, you ask? As with any preacher, give me some time and I’ll tell you.

I was present at the birth of each of my children. I went into the first one like a lamb to the slaughter, not knowing beforehand that I would be in the delivery room, and having no idea of what to expect. It was in St. Brenda’s Maternity Hospital, Clifton Park, Bristol, England. I was prepared to do the “Ricky Ricardo” routine of pacing around the waiting room, chain-smoking, and waiting for the door to open, with a nurse showing me a delightfully wrapped bundle of joy. That was not to be. When we arrived, with JoAnn in the midst of ever-increasing contractions, the midwife thrust some scrubs at me, told me to change, and to report for duty. Apparently, I was expected to help.

It wasn’t a pretty sight – near-miraculous, yes, but not pretty. No one needs the graphic details, but suffice it to say that I wasn’t expecting my sweet little daughter to enter the world with a bluish tint, and what appeared to me to be a misshapen head with forceps marks as added decoration. Her nose appeared to be pushed to one side. I couldn’t imagine what we had brought forth! But then…the first breath, bringing with it a healthy color to the skin. In almost no time, a precious round face and perfectly-shaped head. All the fingers and toes present and accounted for, and it became evident that we had produced a most beautiful little girl. I hardly need to say, after that experience, I was far better prepared for the next four births.

Could this be what we’re seeing now, with the birth of our Ordinariates in America and in Canada? I think we expected it to be all clean and tidy. Just one little push, and it would be delivered to us, all wrapped up in a pretty outfit and ready to show off to our friends and neighbors. Instead, like first-time parents, we’re getting a dose of reality. Birthing isn’t easy, but it sure is worth it!

Our Ordinariates will be born, make no mistake about it, so let’s not be put off by a bit of pain. We shouldn’t wonder that the whole thing is rather messy. It’s going to bear the effects of a difficult birth. But after the first breath, things will begin to come together. It will be ours – and like every one of our own new-born children, it will be very beautiful.

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

10 thoughts on “Something about Birthing”

  1. Thanks Father for the memories. Been down that road and got a lot of laughs reading your description of the birthing of your first born and comparing that with the birthing of the Ordinariate. It does seem like a long time and we still don't know quite what to to expect. I guess it is just the floor pacing time. So we await news from the Cardinal's Office regarding the acceptance for the studies to be followed. Anyway, keep us informed please. You have done a tremendous job so far and it is deeply appreciated. Fr. Clayton T. Holland, Christ our Saviour Anglican Church, Denison, Texas

  2. I also was at the birthing of our daughter, ordered into action since I was then a Navy Corpsman and it was in a military hospital. Thus I have compared our process of the 'birth' of the Ordinariate using the same analogy on this website on several occasions. I have never been divorced but have also used this analogy in describing our having to leave behind those who have decided not to follow our path forward. It is truly sad it must be this way but necessary so as to be in the 'delivery room' when the blessed child (Ordinariate II) comes forth. Nervous? Heck yeah. But the joy. O, the joy!

  3. If this is the birth, that does mean that we have the terrible twos and then the teenage years to look forward to? The gestation and birth has been taxing enough. I don't want to think about the (possibly) more difficult times to come.

    1. Do you think any parents would agree to conceive and deliver a child if they had a chance to watch a preview of all the messy, painful, and difficult future times they’ll experience when raising that child?

      The pain of childbirth is naturally followed by the pains of child rearing, unless the child’s life is unthinkably short. We must be prepared to raise the ordinariates to maturity, no matter the difficulties ahead.

      1. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but when she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world.

  4. Thank you Fr. Phillips for your words of encouragement. I witnessed the birth of three children (2 of the 3 have started their own independent lives…) and it was indeed a miracle. However, your analogy also reminded me that it was my beloved bride that suffered all the pain while I "encouraged" her. I'm not sure where that puts you and me in your analogy! 😉

  5. Fr. Phillips, thank you for your words of encouragement about birthing of the ordinariate for the U.S.A. Besides reminding me of the joy of the birth of my two daughters, which by the way were both c-section births that I witnessed in the operating room, most striking for me was the feeling of being helpless and needing to let the birthing process just take it's natural course. your analogy is much about the faith of waiting on God to birth for us the newness of life– new life of the ordinariate with her newborn offspring. There is no underestimating the power of the Holy Spirit to breath new life into the church through the gift of the ordinariate soon to come with it's hosts of servants in Christ, eager to serve and work for God's Glory as a witness to the life-giving fellowship of the mystical body of our Lord. I am uneasy with being helpless but am full of anticipation and hope for what God is creating in the secret embryonic waters of the Holy Spirit. I wait with expectation knowing that I will soon hear the doctors of the church say, "the U.S. ordinariate is born!"

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